The Appealing Nature of the Gothic Style

Neleisha Weerasinghe tells us about The Appealing Nature of the Gothic Style.

When it comes to the term Gothic, there are many ideas that come to mind, from horror movies to literature, architecture and art to name a few. From these the more popular or well known seem to be the Gothic Architecture style and Paintings that have derived various stylistic forms to distinguish it from others.

Gothic forms of art can be dated back to the early middle ages or the 12th Century in Europe. The style at that period can be associated popularly with architecture although some references and influence can be seen in sculpture, paintings, and jewellery. Its beginnings can be attributed mainly to forms of architecture styles that developed in northern France at that time which later spread out to other areas of Europe. Heavily Influenced by Romanesque architecture this style was popular especially in the construction of cathedrals and churches in the region. One of the earliest known constructions to have this style is considered to be the Basilica of Saint-Denis, which is near Paris.

Basilica of Saint-Denis

Basilica of Saint-Denis

The Gothic architecture style can be easily identified by its unique and elaborate features, such as the flying buttress, gargoyles, rib vault and stained glass. The buttresses made it possible to have very high ceilings and provide more space of elongated and large windows. The stained glass windows were especially characteristic as they sent in a lot of light with colour.

The Name

Where did the term “Gothic” come from? The “Goths”, as they are popularly called are a group of indigenous people from the northern parts of Germany. During the Roman Empire they were identified as pagan tribes or barbarians. History notes that they invaded the then Roman Empire after its fall during the 4th century A.D. the prevailing religion after the roman empires collapse was Christianity and these invading tribes were absorbed into the faith and the culture. They in turn brought on with them their own artistic and architectural tastes and practices. The term “gothic” was not always popular nor was it accepted as it made reference to a barbaric style. The style they brought on was vastly different to the prevailing classical style. While this was more controlled and precise the gothic style was more uncontrolled, free and in some instances very extreme. The classical style work was more idealistic and refined while the gothic forms was overemphasised or inflated to touch the emotions of the viewer.

Gothic Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta in Gothic style

Though early influence was in architecture the gothic style soon spread to other forms of expression such as paintings, sculpture, textiles and manuscripts. The paintings had more animation and movement especially in the figures. The compositions too were more freely arranged throughout the space. When it comes to art, the main focus during this period was the paintings on panels, frescos, stained glass work and manuscripts.

Rose Window

Rose Window

Today one can find the term “gothic” in many forms of creative expression, such as gothic music, fashion and even film. But the true nature of the gothic style can be only experienced by closely studying the architecture they help influence and create.

featured image: Gargoyles of Notre Dame